Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Doula's Birth Experience

I am frequently asked how my own baby's birth changed the ways that I support women and their families as a doula and childbirth mentor. It is not a simple question to answer and is relative to where I started from, my unique journey from the time I began working in birth, or became interested in women's issues, or the time that I was a little girl even. And for each person that asks that question, what they are really want to know, is influenced by their own unique journey as well.

Most of what I learned was deeply personal. How am I in relationship with others, myself... When do I reach out for help... How do I cope with pain or intensity...   What resources can I really call upon... What does surrender mean, faith, letting go... How much can I open... Without going through the initiation of labor, I could only speculate the answers - not live them.

My evolution as a human being was greatly accelerated by becoming a mother and it is ever-humbling. I am sure it changed how I am present in my life, in the moment, be that at a birth, with clients, or at home with my family.

For some people, having a doula or childbirth instructor who has given birth might be a priority for their sense of comfort, trust and confidence. I attended births for several years without having given birth. In fact, I found an advantage to not having ideas of how it should be. I did not have my own wonderful birth that I needed to recreate or a bad experience to save others from. And some of the best midwives and doulas that I know are not mothers. 

Interestingly, I found that I was attracted to birth companions who had birthed. Perhaps it was a motherly quality as opposed to the actual experience they had, or that I wanted people who "knew" more than me. 

In my return to birthwork as a mother, I continue to practice from that place of knowing and not knowing. Every birth has a taste of the universal and a uniqueness all its own. Every mother brings her story to it. And a mystery unfolds anew at each entry of a new human being. I am still in awe, wonder and amazement, grateful to be witness and guide on this great river, that I've travelled many times never exactly the same.

My own birth experience underscored many of the beliefs that I already held, such as that while preparation is important, you can't think your way through birth and the importance of quality support. The unfolding of labor was a teacher and what I needed in order to open and grow, to become more compassionate, wise and resourceful. It strengthened the calling to birthwork, my desire to support expectant moms, babies and their families. And I have even greater confidence in the value of what I offer.